TV focus group

I recently participated in a TV focus group. It paid $125, but I did it more for the experience of it than anything.

I was contacted about a TV study and asked multiple questions about whether or not I watched certain TV shows and how much of them I watched. For more than half the shows they asked me about I hadn’t watched them at all, like “Modern Family” and “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” but when I said I had seen all the episodes of one TV show, “Younger,” I was in.

Season Two Group Shot

Season Two Group Shot

Let me first tell you about “Younger.” It’s a half-hour sitcom on TV Land that is from the creator of “Sex and the City.” I loved “Sex and the City,” and since “Younger” started on a Tuesday night in January, when I’m in hibernation mode, and when I didn’t have any other show I watched on Tuesdays, I checked it out. It’s about a 40-year-old woman, played by the fabulous Sutton Foster, who gets a divorce and needs to head back into the workforce, but she was a stay-at-home mom and hasn’t been in the workforce for awhile. Interviewing in the book publishing industry, she tried to get entry level jobs, but they weren’t hiring her because of her age, so her best friend, the amazing Debi Mazar, told her to pretend she was 26. She gets a job and then has to carry on the facade of being 26, and you can imagine that a lot of silly situations happen because of it.

It’s not a great, award-winning show. It’s sweet, with some funny and touching moments, but it’s pretty fluffy. We all need a fluffy show from time to time, so I do enjoy it when I watch it, but I don’t have to watch it. It’s not like “Orphan Black,” which I can’t miss, but if I’m home and it’s on I’m going to watch it.

At the focus group, it was me and about 8 or 9 other women between the ages of 25 and 50. We were ushered into a boardroom where one whole wall was a two-way mirror, a TV was on the other side of the room, and a camera system was at the end of the table, right behind where the moderator sat. The moderator told us there were people watching us and that we were being recorded so we should speak up and make sure not to interrupt each other.

She first started asking us questions about what TV shows we really loved and I was surprised at some of the shows the women mentioned. Women in their late 30s/early 40s loved shows on MTV, like “Awkward,” which I had heard of, but they mentioned a ton of other shows I had never heard of that were on MTV and E. The only show I can say I’ve watched on MTV is “Catfish.” I can’t help it. It’s fascinating. But I can’t think of any E show I’ve watched, except for “Chelsea Lately” when that was on.

Anyway, it really surprised me that a bunch of 40-year-olds watch MTV shows. When I was younger I was big into “Real World” and “Road Rules” on MTV, and I have no idea if those franchises are even in existence anymore. I suppose I could find out easily if they are, but I really don’t care, so it surprised me that women around my age loved shows on MTV.

So since that surprised me, I shouldn’t have been surprised about their answers to some things on the show “Younger,” but I was. One thing you need to know about “Younger” is that there is a love triangle between the woman pretending to be 26, the 26-year-old boy she starts dating as she’s pretending to be 26, and a 40-year-old executive at the book publishing place where she’s working who thinks she’s 26.

The 26-year-old she’s dating is very good looking, as is the 40-year-old book publishing guy, and when we were asked whose team we were on, as in which man should our main character end up with, almost every woman said the 26-year-old. Only me and another woman who was 31 said that she should be with the book publishing guy. Seriously? The 26-year old who lives in a dirty apartment with roommates and plays video games? The 26-year-old who wants to go to overnight outdoor festivals that are muddy and dirty and full of bad music? The 26-year-old who isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed?

I am team 40-year-old book publishing guy all the way. I told them that the 40-year-old guy would take you to nice restaurants, maybe a play, and you could fly off to Paris together and stay in nice places. If the 26-year-old took her to Paris they’d be staying in hostels.

But no matter what I or anyone else said, they were team 26-year-old all the way. I honestly thought that we’d be split by age, that the women in their 20s and early 30s would want the 26-year-old, and those of us in our late 30s and 40s would want the book publishing guy. I still think those women are totally crazy, but hey, to each her own.

Another thing I found interesting is that I was one of the only people in the room to say they watch live TV. Most of these women watch TV shows using their DVRs, Comcast’s On Demand or services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Only a couple other people said they’ve watched the show live. I don’t always watch things live either, especially not for shows I don’t love, but for shows I love I try to watch them live. I guess I’m in the minority on that one.

But one of the biggest things I found doing this focus group: I do not watch as much TV as I thought I did. These women watched a lot of TV. They were going on and on about “The Bachelorette” and “Dancing with the Stars” and a ton of other shows I wouldn’t watch, and then they started talking about shows I’d never heard of. There was a big portion of the focus group where I just watched and listened to everyone else talk about TV.

Or maybe it’s not that I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I don’t watch the TV they watch. Only one other person watched “Orphan Black” and “Game of Thrones” with me, and they all hadn’t heard of “Mr. Robot.”But one thing is crystal clear after the focus group: I’d much rather date a 40-year-old than a 26-year-old. Most definitely.


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